Paige standing outside smiling

UNH alumna Dr. Paige Balcom ’16 has been named the 2023 Social Innovator of the Year by the University of New Hampshire. The award is among the university’s most prestigious, recognizing leaders with a demonstrated commitment to combining the purpose of a social and/or environmental mission with the rigor and accountability of a financially sustainable, scalable model for change.  

Balcom will be honored at the culminating day of the 11th Annual NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC) on December 6, 2023 at noon. Balcom will deliver a keynote address on the importance of the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in solving today's sustainability challenges. On December 5th, ten finalist teams will present their ideas to a panel of distinguished judges, including Paige. The events are free and open to the public, but registration is required, see the full schedule and finalists here.   

Paige’s award as Social Innovator of the Year is especially meaningful as the Londonderry, NH native was a 2015 SVIC winner, part of an interdisciplinary team, Project OASIS, who presented the idea to provide families with fresh vegetables and fish-based protein by developing a low cost, easily maintainable aquaponics system that runs on renewable energy. Paige graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2016, and has been making impact ever since.  

Paige outside standing in front of piles of plastic, holding a recycled plastic product

Service and experiential learning defined her undergraduate experience, where she applied her classroom knowledge to a wealth of opportunities to address sustainability issues. A Hamel Scholar, Paige traveled to Uganda with Engineers without Borders, which began the impressive journey to her current role as Co-Founder, Co-CEO, and CTO of Takataka Plastics, a Ugandan social enterprise locally recycling plastic waste and creating jobs for vulnerable youth. 

Paige holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California Berkeley where she focused on Energy Science and Technology & Development Engineering. She has a deep passion to use engineering and entrepreneurship to create jobs and help improve people’s lives. Paige pitched on Shark Tank and has received several fellowships and awards, including those from the National Science Foundation, UC Berkeley, Fulbright Program, USAID, the Institute of International Education, and the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. Paige is also a lecturer at Gulu University in Uganda. 

During her keynote on December 6, The Role of Entrepreneurs in Building a Sustainable Future, Paige will talk about the pivotal role that innovators and entrepreneurs play in addressing some of the world’s most complex and pressing problems. 

The NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge and Social Innovator of the Year Award programs are organized by UNH’s Changemaker Collaborative, a partnership between the UNH Sustainability Institute, the Peter T. Paul College of Business & Economics, and the Carsey School of Public Policy. The Collaborative’s mission is to inspire, train and support the next generation of changemakers. It is an interdisciplinary center offering high-impact experiences for UNH students to apply their academic learning in real world settings, to contribute to a more sustainable world.  

The competition is entirely funded through the generous contributions of sponsors and would not be possible without their help. Major supporters of the 2023 SVIC include Alnoba, Impax Asset Management and Kennebunk Savings; additional supporters include Cirtronics, Prime Buchholz, Unitil Corporation, CCA Global Partners, New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, The Recycled Planet Company, and the UNH ECenter Maurice Prize.  

2023 Schedule of Events 

Vote in the Audience Choice Awards 
Vote for your favorite finalist idea! 
Voting opens Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. and closes on December 5 at NOON. 
Vote here 

Day 1: Live Final Round Presentations 
December 5, 9 to 11:30 a.m. 
Strafford Room, MUB 
Durham, NH 
Finalist teams will pitch their ideas to the judges’ panel. 

Day 2: SVIC Awards Ceremony & Social Innovator of the Year Award & Keynote 
December 6, 12 to 1 p.m.  

SVIC winning teams will be announced, along with the presentation of the UNH Social Innovator of the Year Award to UNH alumna and 2015 SVIC winner, Paige Balcom ’16, Co-Founder, Co-CEO, and CTO, Takataka Plastics, who will present a keynote on the role of entrepreneurs and innovators in sustainability.